Why Do Dogs Flip Their Food Bowl Over?

Adrienne Farricelli

It seems like dogs flip their food bowl over and over for the main purpose of irritating us, but dogs don't really think in terms of purposely making us angry. Rather than acting out of spite, dogs instead act out of instincts. So don't get angry with Rover, he likely has his own good reasons for pushing his food bowl around and over.

It happens every morning: you feed your dog and he flips his food bowl over almost as if it's a ritual he just can't get give up no matter what, what's up with that? Why do dogs flap their food bowl over? Let's take a closer insight into some possible reasons. Of course, until dogs can talk, these are just assumptions!

Adding a Twist 

Let's face it: many dogs were selectively bred for a variety of purposes and life can sometimes get dull when confined between four walls. 

Long are the days when dogs herded sheep, chased rats out of factories and retrieved downed birds. Heck, even meal time is way too easy nowadays with dog food being readily served from a bag to bowl with no effort needed. 

Well, here's a fact: dogs thrive on mental stimulation and they like to "work for their food." This explains why you find more and more food puzzles for dogs on the market so that we can add a "twist" to their meal times, making things a bit more interesting.

 In an era of stuffed Kongs, Kong Wobblers, Buster Cubes and Nina Ottoson puzzle, dog owners are discovering that dogs have a kick from mental challenges. 

Does your dog flip the bowl over and then starts eating? Then, by flipping his food over there may therefore be chances that your puppy or dog is in for a "game." 

Now that he has scattered all of the food around the room, he can go on his "treasure hunt" and start foraging!

Looking For Something Better 

Does your dog flip the food bowl over after a recent diet change? If so, there may be chances that your dog is simply looking for something better. 

Perhaps he liked the other food better and he is looking for traces of his former food. This often happens after dogs were fed a diet that was particularly tasty such as canned food or some tasty toppings were added to his bowl and now are no longer are. 

Imagine being served every day a delicious burger that is large and juicy and then one day you are served a tiny burger. It comes natural to lift the bun and say "where's the beef?" as a popular old-time commercial went. 

By flipping the food bowl your dog is therefore wondering whatever happened to his good old food. Maybe it's hiding somewhere under the bowl? 

If you haven't changed your dog's food recently though, consider giving him the benefit of doubt before labeling him as spoiled. Check out the expiration date. Maybe the food has gone rancid. Or maybe there was some change in the ingredients.

A Health Problem

If flipping the food bowl is a new behavior, it may be important ruling out a health problem. Perhaps your dog isn't feeling well and the flipping of the food bowl is a key manifestation.

For example, if your dog has tooth pain, he may not understand why eating has become so uncomfortable. He might associate the particular food he is fed with the pain and by flipping the food bowl over he is hoping to find a different food that is less painful. 

This phenomenon is similar to cats with urinary tract infections who start associating their litter boxes with pain and start looking for another place to urinate such as a bathroom or sink. 

Other possible health problems may include mouth pain, nausea, digestive problems, loss of appetite, vision problems, neck pain or back pain to just name a few, but any type of discomfort or pain can cause this behavior. 

Other Types of Problems 

Sometimes, the problem resides with the bowl. Perhaps you got a new dog and he was used to eating in a certain type of bowl and he's now struggling. 

It is not unusual for dogs used to eating in plastic bowls to act a bit oddly when fed in a shiny aluminum bowl where they see their reflections. Or maybe, the dog is bothered by his collar tags clanging against the metal. 

Some dogs may dislike bowls that move too much or maybe the food bowl is giving off an odd smell. Maybe your dog doesn't like the sensation of his whiskers bending against the food bowl as he eats. 

Sometimes, you may need to put your investigative hat on. Maybe you moved the location of the bowl and your dog is having a hard time adjusting. Maybe the air from a vent is coming his way or maybe the place is too crowded and he's distracted. 

Now That You Know....

As seen, dogs may flip their food bowls over for a variety of causes. It may take some investigation and experimenting to find out what may be bothering Rover so to restore his usual eating habits. Here are just a few suggestions.

  • Skip the food bowl altogether. Who said dogs are destined to eat from their bowls all their lives? Why not turn meal time into a fun event? Try adding some fun challenges to meal time. Scatter his meal around the home for a fun treasure hunt, or place his food portion in a Kong Wobbler. 
  • Call the dog food company and ask if there any changes in ingredients or whether It the food has been recently recalled. 
  • Have your dog see your vet if flipping the food bowl over is a new behavior that concerns you. 
  • Try feeding in a different bowl or in a different location. Remove metal tags from your dog's collar if they clash against the bowl. 
  • If the food bowl moves too much, you can try investing in one of those food bowls with a non-skid silicone bottom. 
  • Try investing in heavy food bowls or non-tip food bowls. You can also try using an elevated food bowl stand. 
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